COVID-19: An Educator’s Reflection – Where do We Go from Here?

April 1, 2020

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


In the past few weeks, thousands of people around the world, who were only marginally connected to Jewish learning, if at all, have attended online classes. They are homebound, in desperate search for connection, intellectual stimulation and safe activities. We have a whole new population of learners who has joined the ranks of those who already participated regularly in classes. When life goes back to normal and people are allowed to leave their homes, go to work, etc., what will happen to those students? Will they turn around and say “thank you, this was great, but now I can go back to what I did before?” Or will they have experienced something that has deeply touched their souls and from which they can no longer move away? Will these new learners join our in-person classes? Or will they expect online learning options? What offerings will we, educators, need to create for them?

In the past three weeks, I have taught more than ever. All my classes went online. All the organizations I work for have added classes. And organizations I have never taught for are now requesting sessions. This past week I had one class with 120 participants, and another with over 370 registrations. I could never have imagined how this would had played out. I am thrilled, excited, and exhausted. I am both in awe of what we, Jewish educators have accomplished, and concerned with the new issues we are facing.

  • We are exhausted. As educators, we were asked to “smoothly” shift what we do in 24-48 hours. Our lesson plans had to be revised. Our teaching styles changed. We feed off the energy of our students when we teach! Now, we have to find that energy in a virtual environment. And we were thrown into this new reality from one minute to the other. We are working long hours, many of us teaching more than we ever did before. How are we supposed to find the time for self-care?
  • We are being asked to volunteer our teaching. As someone who does a significant amount of volunteer teaching, I have had so many requests to teach for free in the last few days I cannot possibly say yes to all. I have also had requests to record my class and then put it up online for everyone to access. How are we setting boundaries? We pay our bills through our teaching (and many of us have seen our outside speaking engagements cancelled). If we teach a significant number of hours for no pay, how are we going to fare? And yet – how do we say “no” without feeling bad? How do we set boundaries?
  • We are balancing all different roles at the same time. We are not just teaching! Our kids, and sometimes grandkids, are home. We need to cook many more meals than before, clean more than before. We are also trying to teach when our own children are trying to learn. How can we do it all?

It is critical to consider many of these issues so that when we get to the other side of this crisis, we will be better prepared to meet the needs of the “new learner.” Because yes – I believe we will all be changed by this experience, and educators will need to understand the changes and build the future. What topics will be of most interest to these learners? How much time will they dedicate to learning? What will “community” mean to them and how do we support this community building?

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Apr. 30, 2020